Young kiwi inventors to launch mobile app that measures UV rays this summer
By Fiona Rotherham
Sept. 14 (BusinessDesk) - A Kiwi startup will launch a mobile app this summer that allows consumers to measure UV levels and whether they need to apply sunscreen.
Auckland University student Ming Cheuk and former student Daniel Xu, co-founders of Spark 64, trialled their UV Lens invention last summer in 100 kindergartens around the country free of charge in a joint venture with sunscreen manufacturer Banana Boat.
A sensor in the centres’ playgrounds measured and wirelessly sent data about UV levels to the smartphones of teachers, who could then involve the children in learning about the risks of spending too much time in the sun.
Cheuk, as part of his PhD in bio-engineering, has also invented a way of measuring heart muscle tissue for signs of disease and the technology may be licenced to medical research institutions though the university’s commercial arm.
He said the UV Lens is a mobile application that was fed data from localised ground sensors and other satellite information from around the world.
The mobile app would allow people with smartphones to know what the UV levels were in their local area, forecast the likely levels over the next two days, and also include what protection certain skin types would typically need at those levels, he said.
“We want people to be able to quickly see what the levels of UV are and what protection they’d need, not just the raw data,” he said.
While the app itself would be free, consumers would be charged for the premium features such as forecasting.
Cheuk said they hope to have it in market by November in time for the New Zealand summer and eventually wanted to take the app global, depending on the outcome of negotiations with sunscreen companies which may back the product.
The pair were part of a team that won $6,000 in the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition in New Zealand in 2013 for a UVsense product that used a custom-developed wristband sensor to monitor UV exposure and wirelessly communicated that data to a smartphone. Cheuk said the idea didn’t work out as a wearable sensor because body movement affected the data reading.
The goal is to allow people to manage their risk of skin cancer which is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand.
Xu and Cheuk own one third each share of Spark 64 while director Richard McLean, who has provided business advice, owns the remaining 33 percent.